Books of Note: WEEK # 4 – ‘But you did not come back’ by Marceline Loridan-Ivens


This week´s book was the haunting, beautiful and moving Holocaust memoirs of Marceline Loridan-Ivens. The book is also a love letter to her Loridan-Ivens´ father who she lost in the concentration camp at the age of 16.

76,500 Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the 1940s, only 2,500 came back and 160 of them are still alive. Loridan-Ivens is one of them. This book tells the story of her unlikely survival.

‘She already looked like her limp, lifeless doll’

What it is about:

It is about the life of a French Jew who survived the holocaust in Auschwitz.

Why it matters:

Reminding us on the biggest atrocity in human history is extremely important. Getting a first-hand and unvarnished account of the inhuman events in those days even more so. The author of this book was mentally so damaged that she tried to commit suicide twice after the war. Two of her three siblings were less lucky and eventually took their own lives: they were “sick from the camps without ever having been there”.

Notable Sentences:

“From my cell block, I could see the children walking to the gas chambers. I remember one little girl clinging to her doll. She looked lost, staring in space. Behind her were probably months of terror and being hunted. They´d just separated her from her parents, soon they´d tear off her clothes. She already looked like her limp, lifeless doll.“

‘An unwavingerly honest testimony’

Storytelling elements:

The memoirs are directly addressed to Loridan-Ivens´ dead father, which make the book even more intimate and personal. The father somehow managed to smuggle a letter to her while they were detained in neighbouring camps in 1944. Loridan-Ivens cannot remember the content of the letter, which haunted her for her entire life. This book is Loridan-Ivens poetic response to her father´s letter; it took her 60 years to respond. Also the book jumps back and forth in time and covers over 70 years of her life and even touches on some post-modern events like the student revolt in China and 9/11.

Some trivia:

Loridan-Ivens married the dutch film-maker Joris Ivens in the early 1960s and together they made some acclaimed frontline documentaries about the Vietnam war.


What others said:

„Very occasionally a book comes along that demands to be published, to be read, to be talked about. A book about pain and suffering, about cruelty and humanity, about grief and love. But You Did Not Come Back is an exquisitely written, beautifully translated and unwaveringly honest testimony; a story we will all do well never to forget.”

– Hannah Beckerman, The Guardian –

Thanks, Hannah.

Very moving read indeed and very recommendable. I will now watch some of Loridan-Ivens documentares.

The journey continues…

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